Surveyors to check other Bristol council tower blocks after hundreds evacuated

There are several other council tower blocks across Bristol built at a similar time
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Surveyors will check other council tower blocks in Bristol after hundreds of residents were suddenly evacuated.

The deputy mayor said he was “fairly comfortable” that Barton House was the only tower block affected by severe structural issues, but surveys will confirm that.

Barton House, in Barton Hill, was evacuated on Tuesday, November 14, as Bristol City Council told all 400 residents to leave. There are several other council tower blocks in Barton Hill and across Bristol, built at a similar time, raising fears of similar problems elsewhere.

However, the structural issues are thought to be specific to Barton House, the oldest council tower block in Bristol and built to a certain design in 1958, according to deputy mayor Craig Cheney. Surveyors have only checked three flats in Barton House but will now check the rest of the building, too.

Speaking to reporters outside Barton House, Cllr Cheney said: “We surveyed three flats in the building, out of 98, so there’s a lot more survey work to do. In the meantime we’re being cautious and the safety of residents is absolutely paramount. The risk is of a fire or some other event occurring that will have a structural impact on the building.

“There’s no concern of the building falling down of its own accord. There could potentially be an issue if there’s a fire or an explosion of any kind, and that’s what we’re concerned about. There’s perhaps not as much concrete as there should be.”

At 4pm on Tuesday, when the Local Democracy Reporting Service first arrived at Barton House, the evacuation had not yet begun and council bosses had only just started to brief councillors about the major incident. Fire marshals outside Barton House were asked about an evacuation, but said “nothing is going on here” and denied anything was happening.

Then shortly before 5pm, a few councillors and council staff arrived and began informing residents they needed to leave their homes. Over the next few hours, many people could be seen leaving the building with suitcases and bin bags full of clothes. Several taxis and a double decker bus turned up to take residents away to find an alternative place to stay.

It remains unclear how long residents will have to stay away from their homes, or even if they will be allowed to return. Surveys on Barton House will help council bosses decide whether to repair the building or if it would be too costly to do so.

Cllr Cheney said: “If we find no problems, then [residents can return] very quickly. If we find more problems then it could rumble on. We’ll be led by the evidence. This building wasn’t built to the plan that was specified at the time, that’s a real genuine issue. We don’t believe that’s an issue anywhere else but we will continue to conduct surveys elsewhere.

“This is our oldest tower block and it was built in a specific way at a specific time. So we’re fairly comfortable that this is the one with that specification, but obviously we will take as many precautions as we can.

“We’re comfortable that this is a particular problem in this building. We have no evidence to tell us there are problems in other buildings. We will of course be looking at them and surveying those over the days and weeks to come.

“I lived here when I was a younger man. It was a long time ago now, in the early nineties, and things have changed a lot. I enjoyed living here, it was a spot where I had some happy times with my family.”